Swimmers and recreational boating enthusiasts will benefit this summer as the second round of reforms to boating and swimming zones across Port Phillip and Western Port near completion.

Implementation of the new zones is almost complete with new signage and aids to navigation now in place in three sections of Port Phillip and Western Port stretching from Safety Beach to Blairgowrie, Werribee to Williamstown and the northern coastline of Phillip Island.

Parks Victoria, in partnership with Transport Safety Victoria, completed a comprehensive two-year review of all boating and swimming zones across Port Phillip and Western Port.

“The new zones will create a safe environment through improved separation of boating and swimming activities in high density bathing areas, and ensure sport and recreational activities such as kite boarding operate legally and safely,” said Parks Victoria Bays & Maritime Operations Manager Vin Wright.

“The first stage of new zones was successfully introduced between St Kilda and Port Melbourne in December 2010 and as this second stage nears completion, the new zones will provide clearer distinction of zones and safer waters in three more sections of Port Phillip and Western Port.”

The zones have been prioritised according to the level of usage and the diversity of activities within the individual zones. Further boating and swimming zones will be introduced in stages across Port Phillip and Western Port over the next few years until all Port Phillip and Western Port zones have been updated.

Parks Victoria has consulted widely with the community including local government, business and boat operators, and life-saving clubs when developing the new zones. Feedback provided valuable information about the diverse needs of bay users and was incorporated into the review, positively influencing many key changes.

“There’s over 70 million visits by people enjoying the magnificent waters of Port Phillip and Western Port every year, so it’s important we ensure the boating and swimming zones provide a clear and balanced framework to maximise both safety and enjoyment on the water,”

“Parks Victoria is committed to ensuring our bays continue to handle the increasing numbers of bay users and variety of water activities. The new boating and swimming zones will also reduce any confusion over the marking and interpretation of the existing zones.”

Swimming and boating zones will be clearly marked with new aids to navigation (piles or buoys) installed in the water.  Parks Victoria will install regulatory and advisory signage on the shore and on the new aids to navigation clearly showing the new zones. Comprehensive information, including maps, is also available on the Parks Victoria website.

The three principal zones are: ‘swimming only’ where no vessels are permitted, ‘boating only’ where only boating activities are permitted but speeds are limited to 5 knots; and ‘shared zones’ where boating or and swimming is allowable with vessel speeds limited to 5 knots usually within 200 metres from the shore. The 5 knot zone is 500m between

Safety Beach and Blairgowrie due to the low water depths and the number of swimmers in the area.

The term ‘vessel’ refers to all powered and unpowered boats and includes yachts, kite boards, personal water craft (including jetskis) and paddle craft.

Special provisions have been made for ‘shared wind sport’ areas for kite boarders and wind surfers which allows them to exceed 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.

Parks Victoria is the local port and waterway manager for Port Phillip and Western Port.

For further information about the new boating and swimming zones visitwww.parks.vic.gov.au or call the Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963.